• Benny Kuriakose


This was the lead story on architecture which I wrote in 1983 February in Malayalam for the Sunday edition of a newspaper, much before I joined Laurie Baker. I am posting this article because many of the things which I had written 37 years ago are still relevant. The title if translated will be “Architecture Which Saumersaults”. The subtitle of the article says that it will be suicidal to neglect our traditional architecture and embrace the western model. The National Association of Student Architects meet was happening in the College of Engineering, Trivandrum. I was asked by the Editor to cover this event. Those were the days when I did not know what I will do after I finish my Engineering degree. Photography was my primary interest and I also used to write some articles in the newspapers.

The theme of the conference was Conservation. I had initially thought that I will write the article by interviewing the students. I talked to them but did not get much stuff for the article. So I interviewed Laurie Baker, who was a speaker, and Dr. MP Parameswaran (who was a judge for the NASA competitions), Gopal Shankar of Habitat Technology Group, Banashree Banerjee, and few others. My good friend Dr. Ekbal Bappukunju was the medical officer in charge of the Conference Medical Centre. He is one of my mentors and many showed me the way Enroute in this journey. He always used to encourage me to question everything and told me that unless you grow professionally high, people will not listen to you. I had the great fortune to design his Kottayam house 25 years ago and his house in Trivandrum five years ago. Here is the summary of the article.

Environmental conservation is very important and only world peace is more of an important issue than this. When city development happens, proper roads, open spaces, parking areas, and other essentials do not increase. It is wrong to say that a place where 50 people live can be used to accommodate 5000 people by building skyscrapers. Transportation, drainage, water supply, power distribution, etc. in the existing city gets very upset by these steps.

Image by entecity.com. Click to find the source link.

All our historical buildings which have survived centuries of natural disasters and wars are facing threats from air and water pollution created by man. Tourists are interested to see our historic buildings rather than the new buildings. We will be able to learn a lot from these historic buildings.

Image by Flicker.com. Click to find the source link.

Shankar G - It is wrong to say that the traditional architecture shall be copied. Traditional architecture is willing to undergo changes. To completely neglect this, is not right. When the Portuguese and the Dutch came to Kerala, they did not rule out the traditional architecture. Our architecture and theirs got blended. One of the best examples is the Napier Museum in Trivandrum.

Image by Keralatourism.com. Click to find the source link.

Banashree Mitra (Banerjee) - When the buildings in the city are being constructed, there should be control over the architectural character. Now there is no control over a new concrete building coming closer to a historical building.

Dr.MP Parameswaran - The architecture students do not study the relationship between architecture and people’s lives.

Laurie Baker - In India, there are 20 million families without any houses. Even if you take a minimum of Rs. 10000/- per house, we need 40,000 crores of rupees. In the absence of a long-term approach, we will never be able to solve this problem. It is in this context, the conservation of our historic buildings becomes very important. Without any sufficient reason, it is not right to demolish our old buildings.

Kerala Kaumudi Weekend Magazine Article on Trivandram Heritage Buildings by Benny Kuriakose
Image of the Article Published in 1983